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Free trade: Two Comments « Previous | |Next »
December 4, 2003

In todays Australian Financial Review John Quiggin has an article on the proposed Free Trade Agreement with the USA. (subscription required, 4 12 03, p. 62). He says:

'As far as the US side of the negotiation is concerned, the proposed free-trade agreement has little to do with free trade. From parallel importing to copyright to pharmaceuticals, the key demands are all about increasing monopoly profits and strengthening monopoly protection for "intellectual property." On the other hand, there will be no change in the basic structure of US agriculture subsidies, centred on the Farm Bill. The most we can hope for is concessional access to those markets that are protected by quotas as well as subsidies. Even here we may be in for a long wait.'

These are also the sentiments of public opinion.

The other comment refers to cultural nationalism and the opposition to the proposed Free Trade Agreement by the film and television industry. According to an editorial in the Australian Financial Review (subscription required, 24 11 03, p. 62) seems to have missed the target. Their remarks are directed to a defence of the existing local-content rules for free-to-air and pay TV. These do not seem to be a point of issue. They will remain in place.

What is at issue is the local content rules for the delivery platforms of the further----digital content on demand over broadband networks. What will these platforms look like? I have no idea. But it does mean that, in a global world, Australian cultural producers will need to improve the quality of their product. The sagging music industry is a case in point.

What does seem likely to happen is that the easier access to the personal details of internet service providers (ISP) and carrier customers by copyright owners (eg., the American music industry).This will one of the first chips that Australia tosses onto the table in Washington as a sweetener for an agricultural deals. (No court order needed?)

Australia is going to have to provide lots of sweetners.

I do not see any reason why Australia would be treated differently to Singapore or Chile on this issue. They adopted legislation similar to the US's Digital Millenium Copyright Act under their respective trade negotiations with the US.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:58 PM | | Comments (0)